By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/25/13
Garret Rosiek decided to take a chance on a first-year program three years ago. It may have been the best decision of his life.
Rosiek, a Wissahickon graduate, enjoyed a standout junior year at Division III Aurora University, a liberal arts college located 40 miles west of Chicago (Ill.).
It would not be where most people on the East Coast would pick as a destination spot to play lacrosse. But Rosiek has helped put Aurora on the lacrosse map.
In 2013, Rosiek enjoyed a brilliant season, leading the nation in assists (68), and finishing third in points (108) while scoring 40 goals and grabbing an amazing 64 groundballs as an attackman.
More impressive was his team’s success. Aurora went 16-4 in its third year of NCAA lacrosse, winning the Midwest Conference title and reeling off 15 games in a row before stunning Ohio Wesleyan, 13-9, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Ohio Wesleyan has played lacrosse for over 70 years.
Then, in the second round, Aurora traveled to undefeated and top-seeded Cortland. After a slow start, Aurora outscored Cortland in the second half, and left feeling pretty proud about a 14-8 loss.
Rosiek chose Aurora because of its Special Education program and the chance to help a new program. But he never dreamed he’d be playing for a budding power.
“I wanted to travel, and I am the type of person who likes creating his own trail,” Rosiek said. “I was doing something I had never done before; I kind of took a leap of faith.”
Rosiek was rewarded with a First Team All-Conference selection as Aurora won the first NCAA men’s lacrosse playoff game ever by a school in Illinois. But more importantly, his team had established itself in such a brief period.
“It is cool to see all the work we have put in pay off,” said Rosiek. “Teams don’t give us a lot of credit because they look at us as a (new) program.”
Aurora’s program has risen in remarkable style. The Spartans won seven of their final nine games in their inaugural season to finish 11-6. In 2012, they reached the Midwest Conference finals where they fell to Adrian, 18-8.
This year they lost their first three games to top teams – the first being Ohio Wesleyan, 11-9. But then they won the 16 in a row while coasting to the Midwest crown.
“We just kept getting better and better,” said Rosiek. “In three years, we beat an Ohio Wesleyan program that is 75 years old – all because our classes stayed together. We are all so close.”
Rosiek said the biggest reason for Aurora’s quick success was the recruiting and coaching job done by the program’s first coach, Philly’s own Brendan Dawson – a West Chester East grad who is now the head coach at Widener.
“To be honest, Coach Dawson had a great recruiting class,” said Rosiek. “He is one of the best recruiters ever. He was constantly on me (to come out).
“I wasn’t getting amazing looks because I didn’t play club lacrosse. I went to Blue Chip and Top 225 and he sent me something. I was looking at Eastern, Immaculata and Western New England, but they were the only school that had my major of Special Education.
“I went for my major in college; I didn’t go (just) to play lacrosse.”
Rosiek said he was shocked to find the competition so stiff when he got to Aurora.
“I got there and we had 45 guys on campus as freshman,” said Rosiek. “He got kids form California, Michigan and here in Naperville. Only a couple came from the East Coast since not many wanted to come out that far.
“We were raw, but there were players.”
Rosiek said being a new program helped the team grow.
“We were supposed to be mediocre, but we kept working and working,” he said. “We kept jelling, and now we have been together for three years. And Coach Dawson brought in another great class.”
Rosiek said he understood why Dawson left after finalizing his second recruiting class to go home to Widener. The good news was that Dawson’s replacement was offensive coordinator Kylor Berkman, the 2008 NCAA Division III Player of the Year at Salisbury.
“He ran our offense so it was no big deal,” Rosiek said. “I was excited.”
After collecting 12 goals and 34 assists as a freshman, Rosiek had 22 goals, 22 assists and 39 groundballs as a sophomore when he earned MLC All-Conference Honorable Mention.
But in 2013 his numbers blew up.
“Coach has let me play,” said Rosiek, who this summer is staying in Aurora to serve as a nanny for a boy with Autism to further his teaching experience. “I am not constricted on attacl. He lets me lead the offense and play behind the goal.
“Coach says I have great vision. I just see it come to me. This year I was working on dodging and other aspects of my game.”
Rosiek said the season culminated in the amazing NCAA victory over Ohio Wesleyan and the second-round game at Cortland – known as one of the top programs outside of Division I.
“Coach said, ‘It’s just a game,’” Rosiek said of his pre-game speech before the win over Ohio Wesleyan. “No one had us winning it – we were just a third-year program.
“Then we had to go right to the airport from a long bus ride home and fly to Cortland. I couldn’t believe this was happening. In the first half, we played kind of scared (down 9-1).
“But we realized they were just like us and we played real well in the second half. They didn’t take out their starters and we outscored them in the second half. Now we have been there; we know how it feels.
“It was a great experience; the entire week was surreal.”